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Strange physical side effect of open offices revealed

·2-min read
Male office worker on the phone with head in his hand, frustrated at noisy office.
How does working in an open plan office go for you? (Image: Getty).

It’s official, your open plan offices are making you stinkier.

A new study published in the Journal of Management and Organisation has revealed the noise and distractions associated with open plan working lead to increased heart rates, physiological stress and even sweat.

The study, which saw participants attempt to work with simulated office environments and stressors, and then work in a quieter, private office environment found that open plan offices (OPO) were associated with lower wellbeing.

“While OPO noise did not reduce immediate cognitive task performance compared to the quieter environment, it did reduce psychological well-being as evidenced by self-reports of mood, facial expressions of emotion, and physiological indicators of stress in the form of heartrate and skin conductivity,” researchers Libby Sander, Cecelia marques, James Birt, Matthew Stead and Oliver Baumann found.

The researchers crafted soundscapes which featured people speaking, walking by, ringing phones, keyboard sounds and the sound of printers operating.

Then, they used heart rate and sweat response sensors to track physiological stress and facial emotion software to assess emotional responses, while participants also assessed their own mood.

While workers’ productivity didn’t suffer, their happiness did.

The study found that having a negative mood increased 25 per cent and the sweat response increased 34 per cent in the OPO environment, even after a short amount of time.

The researchers said flexible work environments and an acceptance that workers will choose to work remotely at least some of the week will help reduce these negative effects.

At the same time, sound-masking technologies, partitions and walls will also help curb the noise frustration.

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Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance
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